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Letter: Make use of jail alternatives

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco stands in one

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco stands in one of the four pods at the new Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. (March 22, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

I applaud Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco's candor against building more jail beds, when other alternatives to incarceration could be implemented ["Suffolk sheriff: More jail space unneeded," News, April 28].

Social workers who serve the incarcerated population have known for years that many defendants languish for months awaiting court dates for low-level, nonviolent offenses because they could not make small bonds. What sense does it make for taxpayers to pay $250 a day to keep someone in jail for months because they cannot make a $100 bail?

While we scale back critical health services in Suffolk County and attempt to close down the county-operated John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility, we are at the same time expanding and spending more money on jails. It's madness!

I sincerely hope that county and elected officials will heed DeMarco's advice and move to divert low-level offenders from costly incarceration to cost-effective alternatives. It's the right moral and public policy position.

Jerry Bilinski, Riverhead

Editor's note: The writer works as a case manager for a nonprofit agency that serves incarcerated mentally ill clients.